07 May 2010

Mission Complete

My tour of duty is done. I'm heading home.

03 May 2010

3 May 2010

Today is a significant milestone in my deployment. It was 180 days ago today I arrived in Afghanistan.

I did not give it much thought until I was sitting outside my room this morning and soaked in what going on around me. Fighter aircraft and helicopters were taking off on combat missions; a unit was conducting permission checks on their weapons and vehicles before heading out to some village to the north of here; and there was construction vehicles working on a new cargo pad.

It was the construction site that drew my attention. They were prepping the same area where our original living quarters use to stand when we first arrived in country. Now all that has changed.

And I asked myself, “what has changed in my life over the past 180 days?”

I can honestly say I am not the same person I was when I got here on 4 Nov 2009. Spiritually, physically, and mentally I have changed.

Spiritually, well this is new territory for me. I was raised Catholic, but did not really give it much thought. For reasons unknown to me, I stopped going to church shortly before entering the military in 1995.

It was not until 13 Oct 09 that I realized how much I needed God back in my life. That was the day I was completely broken down by life’s circumstances. Since then, and with continual support and prayers of some close friends and family, my faith has grown by the day.

Attending ChapelNext on Sundays and Bible studies on Thurs have kept me grounded. Through God, my perspective on life has changed.

Physically, I have learned to push the limits of my body (x3 surgeries on my lower back--it's fused L4 – S1) and overall I’m stronger now than I was in my early 20s. As for my cardiovascular condition, I have reached a totally new level of endurance.

It started when I ran in the New Year’s Eve 5K. 28 degrees and running in full sweats, I finished in 28:24--had to walk a bit after the 2.5 mile mark. Needless to say, I was a bit peeved. Since then, I have run in four more 5Ks, improving my time on every run. Last one was this past weekend where I finished in 22:02.

The importance of physical fitness in my life has changed.

Mentally, I have had to deal with a lot, both professionally and personally. Being deployed in a combat environment, you quickly come to grips with the fact you have no control over what happens.

Professionally, all you can do is roll with the punches and react according to training and quick wits.

Personally, you realize you can do very little about decisions made or events that happen 10,000 miles away. I have had to fight daily to deal with the mission at hand along with the feeling of helplessness as life back home continued to change.

Mentally, my focus on the important things in life has changed.

This morning also brought me back to a conversation I had with a friend last week over a cup of coffee. She told me when she left home her life was one way. Now when she returns in a couple months, it will be very different.

I feel the same way.

So, what has changed in my life over the past 6 months?